Gain insight into how to best answer each of the Columbia Business School application essay questions from admissions expert, Linda Abraham:
“What do schools want? The essay questions seemed random.” This is a very common question and comment that I get from applicants trying to deal with their MBA applications. And while it’s a very common reaction and question, I also think it’s somewhat of an erroneous one. I’d like to go through Columbia Business School’s essay questions. And I think if we go through them together, you’ll see that they’re really designed so that each essay introduces a different facet of you to the reader. And that’s what every essay in any MBA application should do.
Understanding CBS essay #1
Let’s dive into Columbia’s MBA application. It starts with a very short question, maximum of 50 characters: “Briefly define your immediate post-MBA goal.” In response, you need to be specific, succinct, and concrete. What do you want to do and in what industry do you want to do it? Essay one, “Through your resume and recommendations, we have a clear sense of your professional path to date. What are your career goals over the next three to five years? And what, in your imagination, would be your long-term dream job?” And you have 500 words for this essay, quite a bit better than 50 characters.
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Well, first of all, it’s very clear that Columbia does not want you to rehash what’s elsewhere in the application, which all deals with past experiences and events: your resume, your transcript, letters of recommendation. This essay has a strictly future focus, and it has nothing to do with your immediate post-MBA job, which you already discussed in that short answer question. What they want to know is your three to five year job and your long-term dream job. And by using that term, in your imagination and dream job, they’re really inviting you to dream and aspire as well as think longer term. And when you think in terms of that long-term dream job, don’t just think in terms of the title you want to hold or the address you want to have on your resume or anything like that, think about what you hope to accomplish in that particular role or function or with that title, because that’s what Columbia is much more interested in. This was made very clear by Michael Robinson in an Ask Me Anything that Accepted recently hosted for Columbia. So, that’s essay number one.
Understanding CBS essay #2
“Why do you feel Columbia Business School is a good fit for you?” 250 words. This is nothing about post-Columbia. This is all about your time at Columbia. Why is Columbia a good fit for you? Why do you want to attend Columbia Business School? Well, first of all, think about what makes a great MBA program for you. It shouldn’t be about rank. After all, there are seven schools in the M7, there are 10 schools in the top 10. They want to know why… Well, again, the first question is what makes a great MBA program for you; it should be about the education it’s going to provide, the opportunities it’s going to provide, the extracurricular events that you can partake of. And then, fundamentally, how will it help you achieve your short- and long-term goals?
So in order to answer that question, number one, you need to know a lot about Columbia’s program. Specifically, you need to know about its educational program, the actual curriculum, extracurricular opportunities, and its recruiting strengths. Also keep in mind, Columbia’s focus on intersectionality or intersection, period. It’s at the intersection of theory and practice, the intersection of arts and business, being in New York city, the business capital, arguably, of the world. And of course, Manhattan may not be an entrepreneurial capital of the world, but it’s certainly an entrepreneurial hotbed. So that centrality that it’s taking advantage of is important to it. And you should be prepared to tie some of those opportunities that it presents to achievement of your goals. Again, two things need to know: Columbia really well, and what makes it a great MBA program for you in terms of achieving your career goals. In terms of the personal happiness part that I mentioned, I think that’s relevant, but the bulk of the essay is going to focus on the professional.
Understanding CBS essay #3
“Tell us about your favorite book, movie, or song and write why it resonates with you.” 250 words. This is a real getting to know you question. They want to see how you think. Your reasoning is far more important than what you choose in terms of which song, book, or movie.
So they’ve gotten to know you through your essay three. They get to know about your future in essay one. And they get to know why Columbia resonates with you in essay two. Look at how the application fits together. Those first two essay questions, the real short one and the 500 word one, are about the future you see for yourself, so Columbia Business School can assess if it can really help you achieve your goals and if you need a Columbia Business School MBA.
The second question is about your fit with Columbia and in the Columbia Business School community. And the third question is a getting to know you question, more about how you as a human being and as an individual think and respond to different books, movies, and songs. Each question is designed to elicit an answer that complements the information found elsewhere in the application, as well as the other essays. And it lets them get to know you a little bit better. And that’s exactly what we help our clients do in their MBA applications and what we’d love to help you do as well.
Getting into Columbia Business School takes a special combination of an outstanding application, an extraordinary essay, and an incredible interview. Check out our MBA Services Packages to work one-on-one with our expert admissions consultants. We can help you GET ACCEPTED!By Linda Abraham, president and founder of Accepted. Linda earned her bachelors and MBA at UCLA, and has been advising applicants since 1994 when she founded Accepted. Linda is the co-founder and first president of AIGAC. She has written or co-authored 13 e-books on the admissions process, and has been quoted by The Wall Street Journal, U.S. News, Poets & Quants, Bloomberg Businessweek, CBS News, and others. Linda is the host of Admissions Straight Talk, a podcast for graduate school applicants. Want an admissions expert help you get accepted? Click here to get in touch!